During the COVID-19 “social distancing” and general lockdown, I’ve seen and heard a steady emphasis on the need for “us” to get back together. This comes in the context of every conceivable arena – work, entertainment and leisure, school, and especially Christian fellowship. And the criticism of “separation” has validity; not just economically, educationally and socially, but also spiritually.
God has not only endorsed group meetings for His people, so they can experience more of the breadth and depth of the body of Christ, but He has also instituted togetherness as a reflection of His own intimate companionship in the “Trinity”; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
In fact, this companionship model, with all its attending benefits, was the major factor in God initiating and endorsing marriage – Genesis 2. God saw companionship as the best antidote for the ‘alone-ness’ of Adam’s life. God’s declared conclusion for independence and isolation was, “it’s not good”. Therefore He created a companion (complement) for Adam, and mankind has depended upon the benefits of companionship, ever since.
The benefits of companionship are many and they include socializing, educational sharing, procreation, security, work, production and economies of “scale” as well as community functionality; to name a few. So, social togetherness is a very important and necessary component for quality of life, including the spiritual life.
However; it is also equally true that sometimes, just “one” is enough. In fact, in the unique arena of our spiritual life, there are times for a ‘believer’, when “one” is preferable. It’s preferable because God uses the solitude of “one”, in a unique way to build our faith and develop intimacy with Him.
Therefore, I would go so far as to say that not only does God do some of His best work on a one on one basis, but in a more dramatic way, I’d say that without “one on one” time with God it is impossible to reach the depth of relationship and heights of the spiritual life, available to us. In other words, God, who loves us and has chosen us for salvation, uses aloneness to drive us into a deeper relationship with Himself.
Yes, companionship, i.e. ‘fellowship’ – a sharing of life, is God’s preferred arrangement for group spiritual development, for “two are better than one” (Ecclesiastes 4:9). But, God uses alone time with us, even within the context of general fellowship, to take us to places, we will never go, when we are together with others.
I know, it seems an oxymoronic principle – that spiritual growth uses oppositional forces, but it is a truth peppered throughout scripture, throughout the lives of the most stalwart saints of old. Indeed, sometimes God wants us to reach out to others, and occasionally, He uses forced alone-ness, to strip us of others, in order to get our undivided attention and direct it toward Him; alone. There are simply times, in the life of a ‘saint’ when God prefers that our life situation has just enough room for one; Him! He wants to invest singularly in you, so He puts you in an “alone” place, in order to pull you away from the company of others, so He is alone with you, and you with Him – a man with his God; a subject with his King!
Let me prove it. Here is a smattering of Biblical examples…
- When the Bible first introduces us to God…
- Genesis 1:1 – Here we first meet God. He is introduced alone. There is just One
- Genesis 1:2 – Next we meet the companionship or communion of two Persons of the Trinity; God with The Spirit; in communion (a clue here – both have a role; when alone and when together).
- Genesis 1:26 – The chapter ends with another comment of the communion of the God head. (Colossians 1:16 tells us that Jesus, His Son, the second Person of the Trinity was there too).
- When the Bible introduces us to the man, Adam…
- Genesis 2:7, Adam is alone and God states that it is “not good” v18,
- Genesis 2:19-20 God remedies the situation by pointing out to Adam that he is alone, that nothing in creation can fulfill his need for fellowship but a companion of similar construction.
- Genesis 2:21-25 – God’s remedy was a person “corresponding” to Adam. Now man is with woman (here we see again, both have a role – when alone and when together).
This alone/companionship tension is seen throughout the bible. In each and every time, the record of scripture shows us that God allows aloneness to rule for a season, in order to either drive us away from bad company – Abraham from a pagan background, Noah from the wicked world, Jacob from a deceiving father in law, David from insane Saul and Jesus from tempter/ deceiver Satan – and to drive us toward better relationships and better outcomes – Abraham to a salvation by faith, Joseph to save and repair a family, Daniel to speak God’s truth to the first king of the “times of the Gentiles”; Nebuchadnezzar, and Saul who God prepared as Paul; missionary evangelist to the world and author of the Christian church’s legacy theology.
And there are so many more, if time and space would allow –
- Jacob alone at “Bethel” – Genesis 28:10-22; then, alone, to wrestle God at the Jabbok 32:24
- Moses alone; after running for his life – Exodus 3; then at the burning bush
- Elijah alone; running from Jezebel – 1 Kings 19; then the cave and storm meeting
- Jeremiah alone; in a cistern – Jeremiah 38:6; stuck in the mud
- John alone on Patmos – Revelation 1:9; receiving the vision for the end of times
None of these men reached the furthest heights of success in their faith calling until after their “alone time with God” – some call this “the wilderness experience”. I dare say that is most often God’s way with the men and women He would “temper” unto usefulness for His kingdom. Note these words, once penned…
In the construction of His saints, God has a diverse assortment of tools, ready for the perfecting of His children, as He works to “conform them to the image of His Son”.
These tools are as varied as His intent for the subject at hand. He has tools that comfort, tools that challenge, tools that humble and others that reward. He has tools that motivate and tools that direct, tools that change mindsets and opinions as well as those that change behavior and character. Most of these tools are well worn and ultimately appreciated by His people but there is one that has a particular pain when applied and that is the tool of loneliness.
God uses loneliness sparingly for it appears to violate a basic tenet of His nature – to love and thereby to be in communion with others. God, though One, is also in communion with the other two members of the Trinity and God is in fellowship with His saints; His beloved sons and daughters, whom He has called to Himself, and chose for redemptive adoption.
Though loneliness has been declared “not good”, God occasionally uses this painful and confusing tool to temper His subjects toward the most necessary lesson of conformation; that they find in loneliness, the very well spring of the river of life – that is God Himself.
For most, it takes a “wilderness experience”; the stripping away of all human contact, all fellowship with others and all dependencies of life, for God’s adopted children to come to the fullest recognition of both how much they need God and how completely fulfilling He, alone, is. There, alone, they find that He is more than enough and are forever changed.” Source: anonymous
Yes, in this season of COVID-19, which God has allowed and which, may soon be over, I cannot help but wonder…did this “lockdown” present the saints with a once in a lifetime, biblical type, wilderness experience? Was this the “One” time, He meant for us? Was this past 2+ months a unique opportunity for spiritual growth in our personal relationship with God?
Furthermore, did Satan (to adopt a quote from Joseph) mean this disease season for harm but God purposed that it be meant for our good? “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. Genesis 50:20
Did God just give us the very best spiritual- growth- gift of all, an “alone-ness” season that we might sense our dependency upon Him more strongly, allowing us to see Him more clearly, visit with Him more regularly and develop our love and appreciation for Him for fully? And, my friends, did we take advantage of this unique time in both world history and our own redemptive history to spend quality time with our beloved Savior and God?
That is my reflection for this 11th week.
As I close, I leave you with an appropriate quote from John Bunyan – author of the classic Christian literary work, “Pilgrims Progress”; one of the most bought and read books in Christian literature; second only to the Bible.
John began his famous allegory of the Christian life at the end of a 12 year prison sentence (Bedford Gaol) – He’d been sentenced and imprisoned for preaching the gospel. His personal stint in confinement, (his wilderness experience), birthed his great literary success. Afterward, he recounts how he feels about being alone with God…
Some are greatly affected when in company; but have nothing that bears any manner of proportion to it in secret, in close meditation, prayer and conversing with God when alone, and separated from the world. A true Christian doubtless delights in religious fellowship and Christian conversation, and finds much to affect his heart in it; but he also delights at times to retire from all mankind, to converse with God in solitude. And this also has peculiar advantages for fixing his heart, and engaging his affections. True religion disposes persons to be much alone in solitary places for holy meditation and prayer… It is the nature of true grace, however it loves Christian society in its place, in a peculiar manner to delight in retirement, and secret converse with God. The Works of Jonathan Edwards, rev. Edward Hickman, reprint, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1974, v. 1, p. 311-312.
I hope we have all taken advantage of this virus induced – confinement season, brought on by COVID-19. I believe in part, it was meant for us, for deepening our relationship with God. Isn’t He brilliant – what a great way to draw us closer to Himself? Only He could take Satan’s evil and turn it into an invitation for spiritual elevation!